Zambezi Tiger Fishing

The Zambezi River is the fourth largest river in Africa and is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fresh water game fish, the Tiger Fish (Hydrocynus Vittatus). Sometimes called the “striped water dog,” the Tiger Fish is an extremely aggressive predator that feeds on baitfish. This species, which prefers warm well-oxygenated fast waters, is a top target for most anglers, particularly fly fishermen, as it is one of the fastest fresh water game fish in Africa. Trying to lure the fierce-fighting Tiger Fish, which puts on a dramatic display of acrobatics upon capture, is the ultimate challenge.

While Tiger Fish can weigh as much as 30lb, a good catch will probably weigh between 12lb and 18lb. Both the Upper Zambezi – the section of river above the Victoria Falls – and the Lower Zambezi – the section below the Kariba Dam wall – offer excellent opportunities to lure the tough Tiger Fish.

The Upper Zambezi

The most notable feature of the Upper Zambezi is the Barotse Floodplain, which provides a thriving ecosystem for all aquatic life in this section of the river. The floodplain prevents any form of permanent settlement in the area, which keeps the ecosystem free of pollution, over-fishing, and commercialisation. However, it is important to time your trip carefully as the likelihood of catching a Tiger Fish changes with the seasons.

  • November: the rainy season begins.
  • January/February: the river usually breaks it banks.
  • April: flooding peaks – the floodplain stretches as wide as 50km in some areas. During this time, aquatic organisms spread out from the confined river channel into the floodplain to feed, rejuvenate and spawn.
  • May: baitfish start getting drawn back into the main channels, providing prey for the Tiger Fish.
  • June: Tiger Fish start targeting large schools of baitfish, marking the beginning of the optimum period for fly-fishing and spinning.
  • Best months for Tiger Fishing are from June to August.  The river reaches its lowest level in October and soon the rainy season starts again.


The Lower Zambezi

The Lower Zambezi, with its majestic views of the Zambezi escarpment, is another targeted destination for fishermen intent on pitting their wits against the combative Tiger Fish. This section of the river, which is located in the south-eastern part of Zambia, flows alongside the pristine 4100 km² Lower Zambezi National Park. The park is a new tourism destination and there are strict regulations governing the number of boats that are allowed to be on the section of the river within the national park. The Lower Zambezi National Park provides the perfect opportunity to combine fishing with a safari experience. While fishing within the park’s borders is generally better as the fish are protected from netting and over-fishing, fishing outside the park is still good, albeit less exclusive.

  • Rainy Season: November – March, the river rises breaking its banks on the lower flood plains muddying the water and making fishing a lot more challenging.
  • June – September: This is the optimum time for Tiger Fishing on the Lower Zambezi, as the river has started to subside, become clearer and warm up as the months move into summer. October being one of Zambia’s hottest and driest months.

There are a number of acclaimed professional fishing lodges on the banks of both the upper and lower sections of the river. These lodges provide a range of fishing activities for the novice angler to the professional fly fisherman. It is best to contact a specialist tour operator who will be able to give you advice based on when you plan to take your trip and help with the logistics of getting to and from the lodges.

Written by:

Roy Glasspool

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